When you forget why you wanted to create art | Athens, PA photographer

I often find myself over looking an image in my archives and it’s usually related to where I am in my photography journey. 

Sometimes I toss it aside because my focus that week is stock photography and I think, “That’s not going to sell.”

Sometimes I file it away because I think “That’s not what every other photographer is doing. No one will like it.”

Sometimes I overlook a photo because I forget why I started taking photographs in the first place.

I started to take photographs to document my life, my vision, my view of the world. 

I started taking photographs to document moments for my family and for others. 

I never started taking photographs so someone else would like them or so I’d fit in with a bunch of photographers I have never even met. 

So why do I find myself deciding what image is worthy based on what others might think?

Because I want to fit in?

 Because I wanted to sell? 

Because I wanted validation that my art is worthy if others like it?

That I am worthy because others like me?

What a stupid way to create art.

What a stupid way to live a life. 

This week I’ve been going through old images, wondering why I never edited them. I’ve been picking treasures out of my digital folders, editing and saving them.

These images may not be treasures to anyone else, but to me they are everything.

To me they are a link to what is most important, to the moments I knew I’d want to remember in the future, not the moments I hoped someone else would say they liked too.

Oct. 3, 2017 Ordinary Moments in Ordinary Days | Athens, PA Photographer

This is part of a new project called Ordinary Moments in Ordinary Days where I capture ordinary moments in our days for the month of October. Those ordinary moments often make up very extraordinary lives. We may not all be famous or save lives on a global scale or make a national or international impact, but each of us have the opportunity to touch others, show them light, and speak life. Each of us have moments, the small moments, the little details of our day, that mean something to us, even if they don’t mean anything to anyone else.

Oct. 3, 2017

My oldest, The Boy, decided he wanted to paint pumpkins tonight on the back steps. It may have been a way to avoid his homework, but because I had just read an article about much happier Dutch children are because their parents let them explore on their own, I let him paint while his sister looked on.


Faithfully Thinking: A little more of a little less: why the fear of missing out is killing us

Our brain was not wired to process the amount of information we throw at it on a daily basis.

The shows we watch.

The news we tune into.

The podcasts we listen to.

The social media we scroll through.

The trends and news and health warnings and even the good stuff that is aimed at growing us spiritually.

It is information over load.

Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church said it well in his sermon “why are we anxious?”

“There is no way that we can’t take it all in and still have room for the peace of God,” he said. “You’re praying for the peace of God – God doesn’t have anywhere to put it. Your mind is too full. You were not designed to have the entirety of the conversation of the whole human race buzzing on your back pocket on your butt bone. Just walking around like snipers. ‘What did they say?’ ‘Where did they go on vacation?’ ‘What about that press conference?’ It was not supposed to be this way. Of course we’re freaking out. Of course we’re zombies. Of course we’re numbing ourselves and drinking and smoking and popping. Of course we can’t stop it. The devil’s got a shock collar on our back pocket and we don’t even know it.”

We are constantly shackled to the world through our devices.  Our minds are constantly filled with digital noise.

We are listening to a new song or reading a new post or receiving notifications about who is presenting something “live” on one of our social media outlets. And while they are live we are dead inside because we can’t even hear ourselves think.

We have a constant buzz of knowledge and information in our heads. So much we can’t hear our voice, our spouse’s voice, children’s voices or more importantly God’s. 

How can God speak to us if we never shut the voices off?

Notice I say “we”  and “us.”

How can God speak to ME if I never put the phone down and stop searching for help and validation in social media instead of His Word?

Ouch. That one hurt. 

Because it’s true. 

Because it’s what I heard in my spirit today when I tried to quiet the voices and just listen. I tried to listen to what God was saying and it was hard. 

It was hard to hear His voice beyond the anxiety and the doubts and the worry and the efforts to fix it all in the twenty minutes between when I woke up and my toddler woke up.  Not too mention I tried to force myself to listen and we all know what happens when you do that: you start making grocery lists in your head and wondering how cellophane works.

But then I did have a thought, that felt a lot like a reminder to my soul; a reminder that we can’t place ourself in chaos and expect to feel peace.

There are times chaos whirls around us, out of our control. Often, though, we are in control of what sweeps us up into its current. We can step back, close computers, uninstall apps, shut off devices and quiet all the voices except His.

We can decide that less is what we need.

Less people telling us how to be a better us.

Less “motivational” posts that make us feel we’re getting this Christianity thing all wrong.

Less busyness.

Less voices whispering we need to do more.

Less of us telling ourselves we need to be everything to everyone

Less expectations.

Less running toward what we think will make us happy.

Less determination that if we just have more of what we don’t have we’ll have all we need to be happy.

Is social media all evil and no good?

Of course not.

There is good mixed in the bad but less of it can mean more of what matters to us.

More of him.

More of her.

More of them.

More laughter with them. 

More of your voice, not “theirs”.

More of hearing your soul.

More peace.

More Him.

Faithfully Thinking: More thoughts on the doubts even Christians have

Last week I wrote about feeling fake as a Christian when I find myself doubting my faith because of the suffering some people face.

I never know if anyone will read my posts when I write them but I write anyhow, I guess as a form of catharsis for myself and also in case someone else feels they are alone in the same thoughts.

I don’t often receive a response to my more melancholy posts, which is okay because I assume my friends are simply praying for me and aren’t sure how to respond. When a friend or reader does respond it is usually to thank me because they have felt the same way but never knew how to say it or even if they should.  

The private message I received from a friend in response to that post was heartfelt, deep and thought provoking.

With his permission I am sharing part of that response here today. 

“I read your blog post about sometimes we are fake. I wanted to share some thoughts on it and thank you for authenticity.

Suffering and struggle and doubt do not make us less Christian. St. Thomas doubted the ultimate hope until he was knuckle deep in the wounds of Christ. The Apostles huddled in doubt and fear and would not believe the first message of the Resurrection. Face to face with Christ in life and in glorified resurrection….they denied and doubted.

We are weak. That is not an indictment of humanity, but one of the gifts. If we were not weak, we would not need each other. We would not know we need Christ. In Scripture and the history of Saints many of those who are loved and called by Him scream at Him in rage, doubt…run….weep.

When I was ten my mother was dying. No one would say it out loud. But there I was, a little kid good at theology, pious  to a fault. Everyone said I would be a priest. I thought I would. But I asked Mom, because I could not understand…”Why are you going to die? Why are you sick?”

And she said that when God forms us it is art and sometimes it is like a painting…painless. Sometimes it is like pottery. Sometimes there is fire and there is pain. But the potter alone knows the form of the clay and what will make it the best it can be. And pottery, even with the suffering because of the suffering, is stronger than a painting.

She said if someone else had her cancer maybe they would lose faith in Him. And if that was so, she was glad to have it.

Glad to have it.

I remember even then thinking, ‘I will never be her. I will never be that much of a Christian.’

I did not understand it all.

And I asked her why God would fire her like pottery into death. And she said, “Love, my life was a painting. I’m not the one He’s forming right now.”

Through the pains and poverty of my life, that continue in many ways, I have held on to the fact that the most Christian woman I knew faced slow painful death, fading from her children, without blinking, without hate or accusations at God. And she held herself weaker than others. She, to herself, was a painting. Wonderfully made and beautiful but less hard, tested and worked than pottery. She was telling me, it will be ok to doubt, grieve, scream at the heavens. It will not make you less a Christian. It will make you a stronger member of His army.

When my brother died at age 35, his two daughters were just younger than my sister and I were when Mom died. My sister had been so angry at God for years after mom died. So angry before dealing with it all. And our youngest niece (not knowing how her aunt had been) asked if it was ok to be mad at God. And my sister knelt to get eye to eye with her and said, “God’s big enough to handle it. He wants you to give it to Him. And if you do that by being angry with Him, doubting Him…it’s ok. He loves you.”

As Christians we walk a balance between the weakness of our humanity and the strength of being made in the Image of God.

Tolkien puts it best in this work “Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth” in the history of Middle Earth books.

It is a debate between the human wise woman Andreth and the Elven lord Finrod on the nature of things.

Andreth: They say that the One will himself enter into Arda, and heal Men and all the Marring from the beginning to the end. This they say also, or they feign, is a rumour that has come down through years uncounted, even from the days of our undoing.

And earlier Finrod gives a perfect description of Christian Hope:

‘Have ye then no hope?’ said Finrod.

‘What is hope?’ she said. ‘An expectation of good, which though uncertain has some foundation in what is known? Then we have none.’

‘That is one thing that Men call “hope”,’ said Finrod. ’Amdir we call it, “looking up”. But there is another which is founded deeper. Estel we call it, that is “trust”. It is not defeated by the ways of the world, for it does not come from experience, but from our nature and first being. If we are indeed the Eruhin, the Children of the One, then He will not suffer Himself to be deprived of His own, not by any Enemy, not even by ourselves. This is the last foundation of Estel, which we keep even when we contemplate the End: of all His designs the issue must be for His Children’s joy. Amdir you have not, you say. Does no Estel at all abide?’

-J.R.R. Tolkien, The History of Middle-earth X: Morgoth’s Ring, “Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth”

So our hope..is in the Resurrection we have Estel. But it is not less Christian to have failings in Amdir.

We all doubt. We all wonder why at times. We all scream it inside at time until our heart breaks. Thank you for mentioning it out loud because I do believe God wants us to – because that shows us we are not alone, we need each other in this world.

He could take all suffering in this world away. He could make reward and prosperity and joy here a point by point reward for goodness. He does not. There are many reasons Theology lists for why that is. But those reasons are flat and tasteless to a suffering heart. And that suffering heart is united to the Cross. So that alone means it can never make us less Christian. Even though we often worry about that.”

Care for your dead

My dad had surgery on his wrist recently, limiting what he can do around the house and in his yard. Not being able to clean or mow the lawn or take care of his truck is hard for him because he’s always busy. Last weekend our family drove to his house to try to help out, but instead of giving us assignments around his home we ended up in the cemetery down the road, where part of our family is buried.

When we saw him loading the truck with dirt and shovels we were a bit concerned about what we were helping with. Our 10-year old told us we were filling in graves. That was alarming to say the least.

But, no, we weren’t filling in a fresh grave. Instead we were adding dirt on top of a grave that had sunk somewhat over the years. Dad said it was most likely a grave without a vault and instead only a casket, causing the ground to settle some over the years.

The cemetery is an old one, with many of the graves dating to before the Civil War. My dad’s grandparents, his great grandparents and great aunts and uncles are buried there, as is my sister, who died when my mom was seven months pregnant. She would have been my older sister.

 Dad is a caretaker, in a way, of the cemetery, probably because he’s on the board and lives so closes to it.

 

Where I’m from we take care of our dead by trying to keep their graves from falling completely apart, even though it’s hard when the really old stones crack and break and  fall over.  Still, Dad tries to make sure someone  mows the lawn and old flags and flowers are pulled off the graves when they start to fade in the sun.

I guess caring for our dead reminds us of them and what we learned from them. 

Even though we were there to help him, I kept catching Dad lifting and carrying heavy objects if we didn’t move fast enough or I got distracted by taking photographs and didn’t grab the wheelbarrow.

Miss G surveyed it all from the safety of “papa’s” truck cab as it started to rain while we worked. 

After we laid the dirt down on a couple of sunken areas in the cemetery we laid hay on stop and sprinkled grass seeds to help the grass grow.

Miss G decided she’d keep working when we got back to the house and Grandpa gave her a spade so she could dig in the dirt near his hostas and tulips. Luckily she only plucked a couple of tulip tops off . I was actually surprised with how long she spent working on her “project” (digging one hole and filling it and then moving dirt from one  pile to another.) That night she turned the bath water brown, which to me signifies the end of a very good day.

10 on 10 for January |

It’s our first 10 on 10 for 2017 and I’m working with a new group of ladies this year! The 10 on 10 is ten photos from either a day or simply the previous month, posted on the tenth day of the month. After you read my post, scroll to the bottom to find the link to the next person in our circle and enjoy everyone’s photos. This month I’ve picked ten photos from our bath times this winter, which we really enjoy when it’s cold.

To continue following the circle, visit Marjolijn Maljaars-Haeck.

Snow addiction | Athens, PA photographer

She’s addicted to the snow. Last year we hardly had any snow and the temperatures were in the 70s and 80s. This year the snow has fallen much more and when my toddler sees it’s on the ground she  immediately says “Snow! Snow! Outtide!” and grabs her coat and gloves. I’m not a fan of the cold and snow but I oblige and take her out and stand and shiver while she plays. Luckily she realizes the cold is only fun for so long and we’re able to go inside for “hot toto” which she blows bubbles in and I end up finishing.

Summer is here | Athens PA Child Photography

The Boy still has a day and a half of school, but it already feels like summer has arrived. We pulled out the sprinkler and then he became fascinated with the mud it left in our front yard and decided he should paint himself with it. I don’t remember him playing in mud like that before so this was a new one.

I treasure our summer days, especially now that my son is moving toward his tenth birthday this fall. These 9 years with him have flown by and I love watching him simply being a child, even if the mud he played in did clog our bath tub drain and possibly ruined a pair of his shorts.

In the modern days of technology and video games it’s a welcome sight for me when I see a child jumping in puddles or running through sprinklers or doing anything outside.

I hope this summer is much like last year and is filled with more outside than inside time.

This post is part of Melissa Firman’s 99 days of blogging.

 

I wish I was a better mother

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I wish I was better at being a mom.

I wish I didn’t cry like a toddler when my toddler won’t nap on the one day I really needed one myself.

I wish I didn’t let curse words fly out when she won’t sleep and when I know better and when I’m supposed to be that good Christian who never makes a mistake.

I wish I didn’t get grumpy on the days she gets grumpy.

I wish I didn’t get aggravated beyond belief when my 9 year old stares at me blank when I ask him why he didn’t brush his teeth last night or why he isn’t eating his dinner or why he’s playing Minecraft when I told him to do his homework.

I wish I was the mom from the books and the movies and the TV shows who pulls her children on her lap every single time they have a break down and hugs them and tells them it’s OK if they cry, mama doesn’t mind not getting sleep or not getting a break or never eating a warm meal.

If I was that mom then I wouldn’t feel so guilty. If I was that mom then I wouldn’t have to cry instead of nap when the toddler finally does fall asleep. If I was that mom I wouldn’t sit and wonder if some day my kids are going to tell all their friends about all the mistakes I make and all their friends are going to feel bad for them because their moms never do that stuff.

Some days it is just flat out exhausting wishing to be someone different so you can be better for your kids.

This is the part of the post I should write something encouraging and uplifting about how all you can do is try, but today I’m not feeling it. I’m just feeling the discouragement, the failure and the sadness at all the motherhood missteps I made.

 

Woe is me, the temporarily wallowing in her misery mom, who I guess, needs to remind herself if she wasn’t at least a somewhat good mom then none of this would bother her.